The biological chemistry of the transition metal “transportome” of Cupriavidus metallidurans
This review tries to illuminate how the bacterium Cupriavidus metallidurans CH34 is able to allocate essential transition metal cations to their target proteins although these metals have similar charge-to-surface ratios and chemical features, exert toxic effects, compete with each other, and occur in the bacterial environment over a huge range of concentrations and speciations. Central to this ability is the “transportome”, the totality of all interacting metal import and export systems, which, as an emergent feature, transforms the environmental metal content and speciation into the cellular metal mélange. In a kinetic flow equilibrium resulting from controlled uptake and efflux reactions, the periplasmic and cytoplasmic metal content is adjusted in a way that minimizes toxic effects. A central core function of the transportome is to shape the metal ion composition using high-rate and low-specificity reactions to avoid time and/or energy-requiring metal discrimination reactions. This core is augmented by metal-specific channels that may even deliver metals all the way from outside of the cell to the cytoplasm. This review begins with a description of the basic chemical features of transition metal cations and the biochemical consequences of these attributes, and which transition metals are available to C. metallidurans. It then illustrates how the environment influences the metal content and speciation, and how the transportome adjusts this metal content. It concludes with an outlook on the fate of metals in the cytoplasm. By generalization, insights coming from C. metallidurans shed light on multiple transition metal homoeostatic mechanisms in all kinds of bacteria including pathogenic species, where the “battle” for metals is an important part of the host–pathogen interaction.